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Attacking play unlikely as Boks take on Lions

WITH so much at stake in today's first test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions, don't expect a feast of attacking rugby.

Even with up to 20,000 red shirt-clad Lions fans from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland filling up almost half of Kings Park stadium in Durban, the spectators will probably have to get used to the sight of high kicks into opponents' halves and multiple waves of forwards fighting over possession of the ball.

Then it will be up to the kickers to capture the points.

"There are eight Bulls and eight Sharks in our 22 so that probably tells you how we'd like to play," said Springboks and Bulls scrumhalf Fourie du Preez. "There won't be a lot of rugby from our own half. Both the Bulls and the Sharks favor structuring their game but, within that structure, there is the freedom to have a full go if the opportunity is spotted."

It's been 12 years since the last Lions tour of South Africa when the touring side produced a surprise 2-1 triumph. The Springboks, like now, were the world champions then.

"We are expecting them to come out and be very physical," Lions assistant coach Warren Gatland said yesterday. "The South Africans are very proud of their rugby heritage. They will be reminded about what happened in '97 and they will not want a repeat of that."

The Lions have not won a test since Brisbane in 2001, when they went on to lose the series 1-2 to Australia followed by a 3-0 defeat in New Zealand four years later.

Although the Lions tour every four years, each nation they visit only sees them once in 12.

Old-school series

"It certainly is different. It's the last old-school series left," said South Africa frontrower and captain John Smit, who has led the Boks in 51 of his 81 appearances but never faced the Lions. "It is important that we, as a sporting code, hold on to these things.

"The pressure for this test is different to any other. The World Cup comes every four years, but what we have tomorrow -- the next three weeks -- won't come again for those playing in this series. It is a big occasion. It's almost with a sigh of relief that we know the time has come. The excitement is huge."

The Lions have selected a powerful pack to combat the Boks' ability to win and keep possession and the backs may play restricted, purely defensive roles in the game rather than running with the ball in hand.


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